>From the day I started Liszt in 1995, Liszt has been an 'opt-out' robot.
We always trumpeted this fact: for the first three years, Liszt's main
About/Help/FAQ page, linked to from every page of Liszt, began with the
words, "Liszt is basically a mailing list spider. It queries servers
from around the globe and compiles the results into one directory..."
The rest of the page goes on to explain Liszt's opt-out methods and
During this time, Liszt was used millions of times by millions of
individuals, featured on PBS and MSNBC, written up in the Wall Street
Journal and USA Today and the New York Times, awarded Infoseek's highest
rating and Excite's highest rating and named a Yahoo Pick of the Day and
of the Week and even of the Year (1996), and recently named one of Yahoo
Internet Life's '10 Net Essentials'. During this whole period, the
ethics of Liszt's methods were never questioned in a public forum, to my
Nor does that surprise me. The right of Internet directories' spiders to
collect and dispense information from servers has been long-established.
Those of us who were around before 1995 will remember the consternation
Webcrawler originally caused. People used to write in to forums much
like this one, outraged: "How dare they index my web page?"
Eventually, after being hashed out in forums just like this one, it was
settled. People can use the 'robots.txt' file to block ethical spiders.
And now the whole argument seems, well, kind of quaint. But at the time
- boy, were people mad, and their argument seemed compelling.
Lest you want to dismiss the analogy as apples and oranges - mailing
lists being potentially more sensitive than web pages - think for a
moment what the other classic 'opt-out' web service, Deja News, does: it
sucks up everything everybody says on any corner of Usenet and keeps it
on the web forever! Now, you better believe people used to question
that, too, even though it's beyond question now - and that's so much
more in-your-face than what Liszt does. Liszt just reports the existence
of various mailing lists, and how to subscribe, as reported by various
list servers around the world.
The analogy I always used for Liszt's robot: say a fraternal order in a
small town puts 'Meets 8pm Every Tuesday' on a sign in front of their
clubhouse. A zealous newspaper editor includes that meeting in his
'Weekly Events Calendar'. Now, the members of that order are more than
welcome to ask the editor to remove his listing, and of course he will;
if they're really that concerned about their meeting's privacy, they
might also consider taking the sign down. But if they tell the editor,
"How DARE you list this meeting..." Well, the editor is going to be left
scratching his head at that one.
Anyways. I do not and cannot speak for Topica, Liszt or anybody but
myself at this point. But I didn't feel like sitting on my hands,
Again: if you like Liszt, I think you're going to love Topica. If you've
ever been to visit them (and I've spent countless hours with them) you
know that they're a terrific organization, through-and-through. The
level of concern, politeness and openness Ariel's shown in his recent
posts here is (IMO) quite genuine, and quite characteristic of the whole